More than 100 A-League players set to be left in limbo
THE contracts of more than 100 A-League players are set to expire before the 2019-20 season recommences.
Football Federation Australia CEO James Johnson reiterated his intention to complete the season, which has been suspended since March 24 due to travel restrictions and social distancing rules implemented to combat the coronavirus crisis.
However, Johnson conceded it was "difficult to see" the A-League season restarting before the end of next month at the earliest.
A June return clouds the future and livelihood of several players, with the contracts of more than 40 per cent of A-League footballers expiring on May 31.
Professional Footballers Association CEO John Didulica said the matter required "urgent" attention.
World football's governing body FIFA has recommended and approved extending player contracts beyond June 30 to allow seasons in a host of nations to be completed.
"The players remain ready, willing and able to complete the season and support FFA's commitment to finishing the season," Didulica said.
"Whilst we acknowledge that the reactivation of the season will need to navigate complex health, economic and integrity challenges, a strong desire remains to play on.
"The next steps are to create certainty around player contracting and ambition on a clear timeline. These are areas we can collectively control and we need to address urgently."
Didulica also called for A-League players to be permitted to restart "group training" - currently not allowed - early next month, similar to the "apparent permission" granted to NRL clubs to do the same.
"If this opportunity is afforded the NRL, then there is no reason why it wouldn't apply equally to the A-League and allow players to recommence group training." he said.
"This timeline will support the management of heightened player wellbeing challenges and ensure underprepared players are not exposed to undue risk upon their return."
Football Federation Australia (@FFA) extends the postponement of the Hyundai A-League whilst confirming its intention to resume as soon as Federal and State Government Health and Border regulations allow.#ALeague pic.twitter.com/LUnMErnjUJ— Hyundai A-League (@ALeague) April 22, 2020
Before suspending the A-League last month, FFA had been hoping to condense the remaining matches of the regular season and the finals series into a four-week period.
A similar time frame remains to complete the campaign but not until a number of criteria have been satisfied.
They include player and staff health and safety threshold requirements, state and federal border restrictions being lifted, large gathering restrictions allowing for the required squads and support staff to gather, and social distancing protocols being agreed with governments to allow the holding of professional games.
Johnson said FFA's priority was the "health and safety of all players and staff".
"Secondly, we will need to meet all government restrictions in place at the time, including state/territory border controls," Johnson said.
"Finally, any decision to resume will be made in full alignment with Government and its medical advisors.
"We will resume play as soon as possible, and the first stage would see the players return to training.
"We would then schedule matches. It is difficult to see that process beginning before the end of May, but we will work with all stakeholders to achieve the earliest possible resumption."
FFA will provide a further update next month.
"Ultimately, the coronavirus will have the final say on when we can get the season started again, and completed," Johnson said.
VIRUS DELAYS WEST HAM, PALACE AUSTRALIA TRIP
The visit of English Premier League clubs West Ham and Crystal Palace to Australia has been delayed by a year following the postponement of the Queensland Champions Cup.
The three-team Cup, which also involves Brisbane Roar, was set to take place in July at Suncorp Stadium, Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast, and Townsville's new Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
However, the Cup is the latest sporting event to fall victim to the coronavirus crisis sweeping the world.
"Following the strong response from the Australian public to these games, naturally all parties involved are disappointed this event is unable to proceed as planned this year," said TEG Live managing director Tim McGregor, whose company is promoting the event.
"However, it's the right and only decision to make during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with the safety and wellbeing of all concerned the priority."
All parties are hopeful of the Cup being rescheduled for July next year.
The three clubs are currently inactive as they await news on whether the 2019-20 EPL and A-League seasons will be completed.
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish vowed his club would do "everything we possibly can" to rearrange the tour for next year.
"Firstly, the thoughts of everyone at Crystal Palace are with everyone affected by this terrible virus in Australia and around the world," Parish said.
"Football is of course of secondary importance at this time of global crisis.
"It is bitterly disappointing not to be able to make the club's landmark trip to Queensland this July for everyone here at the club, but especially so for our supporters in Australia who have been so excited since the recent announcement of our planned trip."
West Ham manager David Moyes said his club was excited about visiting Australia "in the future".
"It is a real shame that we will no longer be able to make it over to Queensland this summer (Australian winter), however, it is the right decision to postpone given the circumstances," Moyes said.
"The players and myself were really looking forward to seeing our fans and the people of Australia, especially as there was great excitement and support for the tournament.
"This is a situation that has affected the entire world, though, and the only thing that matters as this time is that people stay safe and well.
"We hope the tournament can be rearranged at a later date once things are back to normal."
The Hammers were due to meet the Roar on the Gold Coast on July 15, and Palace in Brisbane on July 18, with the Palace-Roar clash having been scheduled to open the Cup on July 11 in Townsville.
Tickets already bought will be valid for the rescheduled dates, but refunds will be available once the new dates are released.
Roar CEO David Pourre said the three-time A-League champions were looking forward "to welcoming two of England's most historic clubs to Queensland at a later date".
"These unprecedented times are challenging for everyone, and while it's disappointing to have these exciting fixtures postponed, Brisbane Roar places paramount importance on the safety and wellbeing of our players, coaches, their families and our dedicated fans," Pourre said.